Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rapping vs Spoken-Word

Everyone says that rapping is poetry.

But is poetry rapping?

What is the difference????

Good Question

Let's Explore...

Poetry has been dated back to 3000 BC ( However, spoken-word is still fairly new. Spoken-word started to develop in the late 80's and early 90's (Wikipedia). The art form is still on the rise. HBO's Def Poetry opened a whole new world for spoken world artist. For some this was the first exposure to spoken-word. When looking up a definition for spoken-word is the performing of something out loud.(Merriam-Webster) There is no exact definition of spoken-word poetry, but we can infer that is the performing of poetry out loud.

With this definition rapping would definitely fit this category. But is it really the same?

According to rap is "A form of popular music developed especially in African-American urban communities and characterized by spoken or chanted rhyming lyrics with a strong rhythmic accompaniment." This constraints rapping to music. This separates spoken-word and rapping slightly. What happens if you snatch a beat away from a rap song or write intended rap lyrics with no beat. Is it then poetry? And if you perform it, is it spoken-word?

Clearly spoken-word is performing of a poem. What is a poem exactly, and does rap qualify?
The free dictionary calls a poem:
a composition in verse, usually characterized by concentrated and heightened language in which words are chosen for their sound and suggestive power as well as for their sense, and using such techniques as metre, rhyme, and alliteration
Looking at definition does rap qualify? Sometimes.
Now, you may have been expecting a concrete answer but there isn't. Some rap artist do take the time to make lyrics that fit this definition. Rap takes advantage of rhyme, metre, and alliteration. Depending on who you listen to it can also make sense. In the end its mainly a matter of opinion on the difference.

To me, the main difference is in the purpose, execution, and quality. I believe spoken-word is the expression of the poem not of the artist. The purpose is to expose to others the true meaning of the words on the page. The quality of the performance defines the quality of the work in order to do the poem justice. Often times (not all the time) in the rap industry, an artist's purpose and execution is based on money. Which decreases the quality of work. It's no longer about the works but the artist.

Any one can put rhymes together and make a rap.
But it takes a more than rhymes to make a rap into true poetry.

©Lyrically Poetic


  1. Excellent post, there is indeed a difference and I'm glad you tackled the subject. Also, this website here explains the Spoken Word Movement. I think this site does it justice.

  2. Listen 2 U. It's been 2 years since U wrote this. has your perspective changed, developed or widened with your gained experience? Just curious.